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My Greatest Travel Fear

my greatest travel fear

Public Service Announcement: All photographed food tasted divine and resulted in no illnesses.

Fear sucks. My greatest travel fear sucks even more.

Okay, I’ve debated posting about this topic for a few weeks now, but resisted temptation. First of all, I wasn’t sure whether or not my greatest travel fear teetered into “too emo territory.” We devour travel blogs for inspirational nourishment and not angst calories, right?

I went back and forth, wondering if my unfounded fears belonged within the lined pages of a personal diary rather than Blond Wayfarer.com.

Sigh. Remember the days of livejournal? For those of you who don’t know, livejournal exclusively hosted my teenage self’s rants and drama. Ahh, the internet was a simpler, smaller place in those days. I blew my fuse all the time, haha.

However, BlogHouse taught me authenticity is essential (more about that amazing conference later!) for making a blog “great” rather than “good.” When I reveal my vulnerable side, I’m being true to myself, true to my website, and true to you folks: my wonderful audience.

With that all said and done…

As you know, my brain acts like a Shakespearean fool in all sorts of situations. Boarding a plane, trapped in a metal tube speeding a million miles per hour over the Atlantic Ocean, makes me want to run screaming into the night.

Unfortunately my anxiety isn’t only limited to planes. Nah, too easy. My control issues hide in sneaky pockets and rear their ugly “naysaying” heads in the oddest places, for the oddest reasons.

my greatest travel fear

I’m a hypochondriac. My fixations? Cancer and food poisoning.

Let me explain.

Ever since a former co-worker unexpectedly succumbed to bile duct cancer, I’ve worried about rare diseases striking me and my family when we least expect them to fester and grow inside our bodies. My poor co-worker thought his stomach problems were simple acid reflex, not stage iv cancer. So I can pinpoint my “cancer problem” on a map.

But my whole “food will make you sick” fascination? Uh, I have no idea where the hell that comes from.

In my life, I’ve only experienced food poisoning twice:

  • when I ate an egg salad sandwich that had been in the car trunk for two days (NEVER A GOOD IDEA, GUYS)
  • when I threw caution to the winds and ate expired salad dressing because the fridge was empty.

Neither experience was traumatic enough to warrant chronic fear, I don’t think. But does anxiety ever make sense?

Now I obsessively check expiration labels on cans and mold on fresh fruit, because throwing up frightens me so much. Talk about tiresome.

my greatest travel fear

What does this weird mental tick have to do with wandering our beautiful world? Any traveler will tell you food borne illness is one of the most common “wanderlust” aliments. Which spells disaster for me.

See, I want to wander Peruvian rain forests, but I might puke all over the Inca ruins. I want to experience Angkor Wat at sunrise, but I might clutch my stomach and cry near those super cool trees with the windy roots. I want to overland throughout southern Africa and ride a horse in Mongolia, but what if bacteria makes me too sick to enjoy those precious travel moments? What if, what if, what if.

Right now I have been lucky enough to go to many places (check out my shiny new destinations page), yet I’m nervous about booking a ticket to certain countries, because the risk of food borne illness soars much, much, much higher. Although I have my Hepatitis A shot, it’s only a drop in the food poisoning bucket.

And I know me. I’d take so many precautions – no ice, no salad, no meats, no nothing – that I wouldn’t enjoy anything. Boo me.

my greatest travel fear

What do I plan to do about my food poisoning anxiety?

I’m not too sure, honestly. As you can clearly tell, I need explore countries outside my Western comfort zone. Epic adventures are my true calling. I need to accomplish all my lifelong dreams, going on a safari in Tanzania and hiking national parks in Guatemala, while somehow protecting my tummy health.

So I suppose I’ll have to find a healthy balance of preparation and courage to make these trips happen in the near future. Bring it on, control issues. You’ve met your match.

What are YOUR biggest travel fears? How do you conquer them? Were you surprised by my greatest travel fear? Do you have any advice for me?

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10 Responses to My Greatest Travel Fear

  1. Liz @ Poulet s’il vous plaît June 15, 2016 at 2:03 am #

    I really feel for you and I know what it’s like to travel with an upset tummy. I myself have an autoimmune liver disease and this has really impacted the list of places I want to visit. I am grateful that I had already visited Vietnam before I was diagnosed as I know I’d have to be more careful now, even with the “safe” looking street food stalls. How I like to think about it is that it’s still possible to experience a new place without eating risky foods. You can hire an apartment and cook for yourself, buy your own groceries or eat at hotels or recommended restaurants (but just in case I always travel with medicine haha). Thanks for sharing!

  2. Rachel Elizabeth June 15, 2016 at 3:26 pm #

    Liz —

    Smart idea! I’m also considering a few guided tours of certain places. I think using companies such as Intrepid and G Adventures would add a degree of “food safety.” I know it’s impossible to completely control food poisoning, however, so I need to be reasonable about it.

    Thanks for sharing your own story! I appreciate all your wonderful comments. Many happy travels to you.

  3. Lauren June 15, 2016 at 4:46 pm #

    I’m really diggin this whole “admit your fears with travel” thing. It’s scary! That’s totally part of the fun though 🙂

    Having been only 9 when 9/11 happened, I kinda grew up with modern terrorism and it was totally my worst fear. Still it. But I was in Bangkok when the bomb went off last summer, and I have to say it sort of justified (at least to myself!) my obsession with making sure I know where the embassy is, have an escape plan, etc.

    I actually lol’ed at your two food poisoning incidents… Live and learn?

    • Rachel Elizabeth June 15, 2016 at 5:16 pm #

      Lauren —

      Haha, I dig what you’re saying about scary parts of travel becoming fun parts. I always feel like such a boss after surviving something that terrifies me. 🙂

      And oh my goodness! I would’ve immediately wanted to go to the nearest embassy if a bomb went off in the same city as me. Melodramatic? Yes, but that’s me!

      Thanks so much for visiting and commenting!

  4. Anita June 17, 2016 at 9:00 am #

    Oh, being sick while traveling is never good! I, thankfully, have not experienced that yet. I was hungover pretty bad one time during my semester abroad, but that was about it. I still worry about it though, especially since I try to eat locally and not get the same things I could get back at home.

    I think my biggest traveling fear is getting seriously lost in a place that English isn’t the first language, more so when I’m on my own. I know sometimes getting lost can be a good thing, but it scares me to think I might not be able to find my way back, no one will know where to look for me, someone will kidnap me, etc. Pretty sure that’s way I obsessively check maps and modes of transportation, etc. before I ever leave on a trip! Heaven help me if I ever make it to the Amazon rain forest and somehow get separated from the group!!

    • Rachel Elizabeth June 17, 2016 at 6:41 pm #

      Anita —

      Oh man! Getting lost isn’t very fun for me either. I don’t mind being lost in cities or small towns, because I can always pop into a shop and ask for directions, but wandering aimlessly in nature? Eeeek, my heart stops to think about it! I don’t blame you for obsessively checking maps! I’d probably never make it home if it wasn’t for Google Maps, haha.

      Thanks so much for visiting!

  5. Ella June 18, 2016 at 2:57 am #

    This is a very brave post to share! I wish I could offer a suggestion for your issue but I’m unfortunately coming up empty handed. I think your idea of perhaps going with a guided tour group like through Intrepid or G Adventures is a good one and may help eliminate the chance and the fear for getting food poisoning. They wouldn’t take you to places that would put your health at risk and you could always ask them questions about the food in the area too. Maybe you could also look at reviews on the Internet for potential restaurants and cafes in a destination and see if there’s anyone who had trouble after eating there. Make a list of those that check out to you and keep them as safer options that you can trust more.

    • Rachel Elizabeth June 28, 2016 at 2:59 pm #

      Ella —

      Aw, thank you so much for your support! I definitely think trying a group tour would be a smart way to handle my fear. I also like your suggestion to check out internet reviews! The internet is there for a reason. 😉 Thanks again for your kind comment.

  6. Darlene Kingett July 20, 2016 at 12:30 pm #

    Rachel, I have been meaning to contact you about our trip to Italy. Much thanks goes to you for helping us with our plane reservation along with your wonderful and helpful travel tips. We had a amazing time and our trip was absolutely perfect! We can’t wait to return. Thanks again Rach, Love, Mrs. Kingett

    • Rachel Elizabeth July 23, 2016 at 9:06 am #

      Hey, it wasn’t a problem at all!! Let me know if you ever need anymore trips planned!

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